Posts filed under ‘Market It’

Insider to Insider: David and Corbin Baxter, Owners of Soulbox Productions

David & Corbin Baxter

Photo courtesy of Sil Azevedo, Azevedo Photography

This week’s Insider Interview is brought to you by Kelly Simants.  She met with David and Corbin Baxter of Soulbox Productions a few months ago and was wowed by their energy and enthusiasm.  She loves how open the videographers are to share with people in the industry. David and Corbin started their business in 2001 when they wrote, directed, and filmed a feature length film.  They began filming weddings full time in 2004.  I love what they have to say about their clientele: “It is amazing to us that our clients are just like us.  They find us through our work: creative, energetic, carefree, organized, and detail-oriented.”  This is so relateable.  They have managed to give prospective clients a taste of what it’s like to work with them.  Brilliant!  Here are more brilliant thoughts from David and Corbin.

David & Corbin Baxter
Owners, Soulbox Productions
Dallas, TX
www.soulboxproductions.com
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Capturing once in a lifetime moments for our wonderful couples. We’re so lucky that we’ve built so many great relationships, we absolutely love what we do!

What is your best tip for time management?

Make attainable yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Corbin and I set priorities and accomplish them as efficiently as possible. For example, we pride ourselves on replying to inquiries within 24 hours.

What is your little marketing secret?

Network, network, network. Corbin and I are both advertising majors and so it was a surprise to us in the beginning that building relationships with your clients and other wedding vendors is by far the best marketing.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Well, we’re going to be a little biased on this one and say anything vintage: cars, dresses, veils, invitations and for us, true super 8mm film coverage.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Started filming weddings in super 8mm from the beginning. We had Corbin’s father’s super 8mm camera for 5 years and didn’t even know it.

Thanks David & Corbin!

August 7, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique

circleparkbridalKelly Simants recently met with Andrea Porter, Owner of Circle Park Bridal Boutique in North Dallas.  She was impressed with Andrea’s business saavy and her super cute shop!  Andrea started her career in the cosmetic and fashion industries working for companies such as Estee Lauder and a leading intimate apparel company. More recently, Andrea worked in hospitality management and event coordination, overseeing daily bridal, social and corporate functions for up to 5,000 guests. In 2004, Hilton Brand Vice Presidents awarded her with the Innovation Award, given annually to just one person in the company worldwide. Circle Park Bridal was Andrea’s vision to create a beautiful boutique with incredible customer service and gorgeous gowns at fair prices.  I love Andrea’s business insight!  (I think you will too!)

Andrea Porter
Owner, Circle Park Bridal Boutique
Addison, TX
www.circleparkbridal.com
Established 2007

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Whether it is a huge affair or a small and intimate celebration, a couple will never feel more overwhelming love and support than on their wedding day.  I encourage brides to walk slowly down the aisle, to savor the look in her groom’s eyes and to take in the joy on her guests’ faces.  Relax and enjoy everyone’s company, cherish every conversation, each giggle, every smile and all the happy tears.

To have everyone that you both care about, together in one room is an incredible experience….a gift that happens just once in a lifetime. There comes a time when most would trade all worldly possessions to experience this one day over again.  The day will truly feel magical and it will be the one day you will reminisce about forever.

What is your best tip for time management?

Here in Dallas, there are industry mixers, tradeshows and open houses for wedding professionals almost every night of the week.  Face to face networking is extremely important for new business development but can easily take away time allocated to product research, inventory purchasing, staff training, etc.  I had to get a grasp on my schedule by prioritizing which events and associations were most advantageous to attend.  I learned to not over commit. Saying no to some board and committee seats was difficult, but absolutely necessary to ensure I am 100% on top of my store’s daily operations.

What is your little marketing secret?

I truly felt there was a need to shake up the way the bridal gowns were sold by eliminating the hassles that are so common in the industry and by adding a much needed fun factor.  My research showed a need to ensure marketing efforts exude the experience a bride will have at Circle Park Bridal.  We have a super cute retro bride logo that has been very popular with our customers and our website main page is a whimsical replica of the exterior of our two story boutique. Blogging and our presence on Facebook and Twitter have also been great for us to get our message out. We also host a lot of spirited events that are a little off the beaten path from what most bridal shops would offer, such as complimentary special advance movie screenings for our brides to movies such as MADE OF HONOR and BRIDE WARS, our annual Ghoul’s Night Out for Halloween parties, etc.

I guess it is important to explain how a bride’s experience at our store is so different. In developing the store’s concept, I looked at the way most bridal boutiques are run and realized their way of operating hasn’t changed in forty years.  They are perceived as stuffy, they carry mostly sample sizes and only special order, leaving plenty of room for mistakes (wrong size, color, or style arriving or gowns arriving late or being damaged going through customs, etc). Brides relay that most shops are crammed with merchandise and charge ridiculously high prices for gowns and accessories.

I  then compared the operations of a couple of large bridal chain stores and thought with their mammoth size and large number of brides serviced at one time, they were missing the mark in providing a truly intimate and special experience for brides. Through bridal focus groups, I learned many brides perceive gown shopping, whether in a “normal bride boutique” or in a chain store, to be the one thing about wedding planning they dreaded the most.

I market Circle Park Bridal as the pseudo bridal shop…the opposite of what most expect to experience. The store was created initially more as a hobby, as when it opened, it was just three days a week. By staying true to our concept:  offering brides of all budgets a convenient, upscale boutique experience with “retro prices”  as each bride deserves to feel special on the day she selects her wedding gown (all of our brand new designer gowns are priced below $800, up to 80% off their suggested retail price).

We work hard to ensure our store’s offerings are clear on our website. We are small and we carry just 200 gowns at one time in sizes 0 through 16. We don’t have every gown in every size, color and style. We know don’t have a gown for every bride. But when we do, it is an incredible match and the shopping experience is like no other!

Brides have really embraced our store’s concept. We work with just two brides at any one time, so it is a very intimate experience. When a bride selects her gown, she knows exactly the price, the color, the size and how much will need to be altered before she takes it home. With us, there are no rush fees, no lectures about waiting so long to order a gown and no surprises.  Brides take immediate possession of their gown and can then have alterations when they want without rush fees and have bridal photos taken on their schedule.

Circle Park Bridal

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

Most of our brides are steering away from traditional veils. Birdcage veils and hair feather fascinators with antique brooches are very popular with our brides and create a ultra whimsical look that makes their guests smile and know they are in for some fun at the reception. Most of our brides are wearing bold colored heels to incorporate a splash of color and personality into their look.  The Old Hollywood glamour look is a really popular wedding theme right now, complete with cigar bars, martini bars, Frank Sinatra-esque bands and crystal accents everywhere, from floral arrangements, to centerpieces to “back jewelry”.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would never again do a finish-out in Texas during the months of July and August.  I would have met with a CPA before I formed my Limited Liability Corporation.  I also would have saved a large amount of time and money had I immediately created an account with a payroll company rather than allocating that task to my CPA’s office for my first six months of operations.

Thank you so much, Andrea!

July 31, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Insider to Insider: Laura & Chris Randall, Owners of Edit 1 Media

Laura RandallLaura Randall and her husband Chris are the founders and co-owners of Edit 1 Media, a video production company.  Recently, I visited with them in their Tacoma home.  I was struck by their warmth and sincerity.  Instantly, I understood why their work is so beautiful, so touching, so real.  (That’s how they are!)  Several years ago their son Matthew was diagnosed with cancer as a toddler.  On their journey to hell and back they started filming him.  They met so many families that wanted Chris and Laura to film their children.  So, they began taping the families as a way of helping them in their catharsis.  What began as something charitable, turned into requests for filming all life events… including the more uplifting ones, such as weddings.  Their entrepreneurial story is by far the most touching one I have ever encountered.  Out of this very painful moment in their lives, blossomed an amazing business… and a healthy little boy…  Matthew will turn 15 this year!  Thank you so much, Laura and Chris, for sharing of yourself with me!

Chris RandallLaura & Chris Randall
Owners, Edit 1 Media

Seattle, WA and Honolulu, HI
www.edit1media.com
Established 1998

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

The interactions and emotions. It might be the look on a mother’s face as she watches her son dance with his new wife for the first time. Or the quivering lower lip as a father sees his little girl as a beautiful bride. Or the smile on a bride’s face when her soon-to-be husband whispers “You are so beautiful!”. Or the roaring laughter of the crowd during the Best Man’s toast. There is so much power in these moments and I love seeing the story unfold. Every wedding we film is unique and I love being a witness to the story of the day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I am a list person and I have been since I was a kid! I use a program called Remember The Milk which I can access from my laptop or my iPhone. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to cross things off on my list. I also keep a running list of our editing backlog and send that out to our clients periodically so they can see where they stand in the queue and what items I’m waiting to receive from them in order to finish the video.

What is your little marketing secret?

Be very visible, stay in touch with other industry people and let your personality shine through!

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

For videography it is definitely Same Day Edits! This is where we take video footage from earlier in the day, edit it on-site, then project it on a large screen at the reception!! The guests are completely blown away and it’s a HUGE smash hit!!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would have learned how to handle accounting, budgeting, taxes and our workflow from the very beginning! As Michael Gerber says in “The E-Myth” (paraphrased) – “Just because you are good at doing something, doesn’t mean you are good at running a business!”. We have spent the last few years really stepping back and re-evaluating how we run our business while still keeping our artistic and creative passion flowing. It is a delicate balance and there have been some hard lessons learned along the way, but we love what we do and we love to continue learning how to make things work even better!

And, here’s a clip of some of their amazing work…

Seattle Same Day Edit with 5D Mark II from Edit 1 Media on Vimeo.

July 24, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Insider to Insider: Laurel McConnell, Owner of Laurel McConnell Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Photo courtesy of Barbie Hull Photography

Laurel McConnell is seriously one of my favorite people in this industry.  Her photography is amazing, gorgeous, incredible, delightful and talented.  But, it’s Laurel herself that I adore even more.  She is funny and smart.  She is witty and bright.  And, she has an incredible spirit and fire.  Laurel is a marketing maven and any wedding business could learn a lot from her on branding, niche, and having a “company voice”.  (You’ll know what I mean if you read her blog and once you read her interview below.)  Her personal flair is on everything she does… and that’s what makes it so special.

Laurel McConnell
Owner, Laurel McConnell Photography
Based in Seattle, WA (but travels worldwide)
laurelmcconnell.com
Established 2001

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

Other than the obvious (happy giddy love and gooey gushy moments & feelings) it’s the anticipation of what exciting things could happen and the cool things we’ll find. Each time we change locations or focus on a new part of the day a whole new world explodes in front of us, waiting for it’s turn to be documented.

It’s like each day is a scavenger hunt- I put all of my energy into finding the light in each situation, absorbing the energy of the people around me, and being in the right place at the right time for the moments that are happening before my eyes. Bride bathed in the most beautiful light that it takes your breath away, CHECK. Ring bearer picking his nose, CHECK. Dad crying when he thinks no one can see him doing it, CHECK. Series of a surprise proposal during the reception of his best friend’s wedding, CHECK. Talk about an exciting day.

What is your best tip for time management?

I’m probably the worst person to ask about this because photographers have SO much pre and post production for each shoot and client that we drown and end up missing dinner, but I like to save a little bit of time each day for my “research” (blog reading, newsletter reading, market trends, social networking, etc) so I feel like I got a treat and got to “goof off.” I got to have a little bit of fun and can move on, and really get stuff D O N E. But really… I turn off my email and phone, lock the door and shut the curtain, and work solid straight through lunch and sometimes dinner: I call this my little Workcation. You can always tell when I’ve had one because there are like 5 blog articles in a row, and then hear nothing but crickets for the next three weeks while I face the music of the missed calls and unanswered emails!

What is your little marketing secret?

If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, now, would it?! But I can give you two hints:

1. Being genuine in your personal relationships with other people in your industry when you network. Your network of other photographers and professionals is your biggest ally and loudest cheerleading squad.

2. Finding something people generally like outside of what you do for work that you can write about on your business blog to keep folks coming back for more. In otherwords: yep, you guessed it, CUPCAKES are my little marketing secret.

What is the funnest (most fun) trend you are seeing in the industry?

The wedding photography industry is so ridiculously trendy, it’s dizzying and distracting, so I’m going to be a little abstract here. The one thing that stands out once you take away all the photobooths, generic post-processing ready-made actions, and retro-vintage-thingamabbobers is CREATIVITY AND INGENUITY. The hottest new trend is to be creative and differentiate yourself from other photographers with a difinitive STYLE. People are trying new things outside of their normal realm of shooting, marketing, image-processing, writing, reading, listening, and letting it inspire them to carve out a niche and style that is highly marketable to the types of clients they want.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Not a dang thing. There are millions of awesome workshops, blogs, and chatty photographers who are willing to share more now that what was available when I came out of commercial art school. Heck, you don’t even need to go to school anymore, most budding photographers I meet aren’t or didn’t. But you know what…. I feel like the route that I took, learning things the HARD way, finding my own way to do things, shaped and molded my style, business skills, and personality in such a way that if I did anything differently, I just might blend into the masses.

YAY!  Thanks Laurel!

July 17, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

Networking, The New Frontier: Online Social Media

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This week, we’re discussing networking, referrals, and building relationships.  While I love meeting people for coffee to talk shop, networking has gone beyond the coffeeshop and onto the internet.  These days you can mix and mingle with people cross-country through the use of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and so on.  I am certainly not a social media expert, but am a HUGE fan and a heavy user.  What I offer here is advice from the experts.

Your Business Blog

A blog is a powerful tool for showcasing your products and services.  It can be a great way to begin the conversation with potential clientele.  It’s a method of sharing with them more about you and what it is that you do.

If you want to learn more about blogging, you really ought to be reading Liene Steven’s Think Splendid blog.  Liene is the owner of Splendid Communications and an online media expert for the wedding and event industries.  Recently, Liene wrote about how to get brides to visit your wedding blog.  Her advice is to offer highly valuable information 3 times a week for 6 months. (This information is the type of stuff you would want to charge for.)  Brides don’t want to be sold, they want information.  That information will help them make the decision as to whether they are interested or not.  (By the way, Liene offers blogging bootcamps and I hear from people throughout the industry that they have been incredibly valuable for their businesses.)

I would also add this: write about subjects that you would like to be known for.  If you are a florist and want to be known for your artistic technique, talk about art.  Talk about the people that influence your work.  By writing about your passions and interests, people who share your passion and interest will find you.  (Think about it, if you talk about how Dali has an impact in your floral design… and if you talk about this at great length…  eventually, anyone who googles “Wedding Design Dali” is likely to find you through your blog.)

I love what Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo of ABCD Design does on her blog.  She is a wedding invitation designer, but covers all aspects of design and art on her blog.  People who like her aesthetic, will understand what her stationery is all about.  She is creating a following by speaking to the artistic flair in her clientele.  And, in turn she is most likely working with some really cool people.

Tweet Tweet

Twitter is a big party – a BIG networking party.  Everyone is just waiting to see who’ll be the next person to walk through that door.  This is how Twitter works in a nutshell: users sign up for an account and send out “headlines” of the latest and greatest information.  This can be business information or personal information:

  • Working on a Fijian wedding; invites are tropical reds and beach oranges
  • Getting sunburned in my office, really should invest in shades
  • Great article on the positive impact of the economy on weddings: http://www.bit.com

Any of your “followers” will see these updates (along with all the others of people they follow.)  At first it seems like a crazy time-consuming thing to fill your day with mundane information.  But the value is in the conversations you have with people.  Often you are networking with people in the industry across the country!  Or, you are reaching out to new customers who love learning about cool new wedding trends.

Chris Brogan advises businesses on how to use social media.  I love his tips, in general, but the advice specific to Twitter has been very valuable to me (particularly when I was getting started on Twitter.)  He has written 50 ideas on Using Twitter for Business.  Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. Talk to people about THEIR interests.  I know this doesn’t sell more widgets, but it shows us you’re human.
  2. Be wary of always pimping your stuff. Your fans will love it. Others will tune out.
  3. When promoting a blog post, ask a question or explain what’s coming next, instead of just dumping a link.
  4. Don’t toot your own horn too much.
  5. Instead of answering the question, “What are you doing?”, answer the question, “What has your attention?”

My personal reflection is that the best twitterers are those that are “the nicest guy in the room”.  Think of a party: who do you want to talk to?  Now, be that guy.

Facebook

Most people have personal accounts set up in facebook, so I won’t get into that too much.  What I will emphasize is the need to set up a “page” for your business.  Your clients don’t care about your personal profile’s drunk facebook status updates on a Saturday night.  You shouldn’t be connecting with your clients and colleagues through your personal profile, unless you have a personal relationship with them.  By setting up a page you are building relationships with “fans” of your business and sharing with them what’s new.

Hazel Grace of Socialbees is an expert on using facebook for business.  Socialbees specializes in helping small businesses reach highly targeted audiences by optimizing their Facebook presence to drive user engagement and viral growth. Socialbees advises on having general company information, but adds that you can really add value to your facebook page (and give further details to clients) by including the following:

  • Upcoming events: This includes your own events — where you or your product might be appearing — or industry-related events you think are cool and want to support.
  • Photos: of you, your products, your store and especially your products in action.
  • Videos: YouTube links or raw files of you, your customers, your products.
  • Blogs: Do you have a blog? Add the URL. Also, add blogs or websites you love that are relevant to your industry or customers.
  • Customization: Make it unique!

The best use of facebook for networking is when you engage your fans in conversation and discussion.  Ask a question, start a forum topic, make comments on your fans’ insights.  Start the discussion!

Diversification is the key

Like with anything, you must diversify your social networking.  Try a little bit of everything and create a presence for your business in various media.  These are inexpensive ways to network (and increase your SALES)… they only require an investment of your time and attention.  Remember, this is still networking… whether its at the coffeehop or over the internet, it’s still about building relationships!

July 16, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

Fostering Relationships (Inexpensive Ways to Increase Sales)

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Creative Commons License

This week we are discussing inexpensive ways to increase sales. Yesterday’s post was about networking and how to rethink your networking strategy.  Today, we’re discussing how to foster those relationships.  If referrals are an important part of your sales plan, you must actively invest your time to nurture the source of those referrals.

How do you thank the people that refer you business?  Do you hand write them a note?  To me, this is a minimum requirement.  But why not take it a step further?

Make it public

A public acknowledgment of a vendor who passes business to you is a great way to give them a loud shout-out.  This gives them a little exposure in a public forum while showing others that you value referrals.  You can do this by posting something on your blog, or sending out a tweet on Twitter.

Non-contingent Thank Yous

Thank yous should be made to referrers regardless of whether the prospect ultimately does business with you or not.  You should show appreciation regardless of the end result.  It’s important to acknowledge a person’s thoughtfulness regardless of sale or no-sale.  This appreciation will result in continued referrals… and those referrals are bound to pan out.

Send a little something-something

I’m a stationery designer, so when someone refers business to mmm… paper I like to send some little paper goodie.  It’s a low cost way of saying, “I really and truly appreciate your good word about my business.”

Return the favor

If someone is good at referring you business, you should return the favor.  Sometimes, the match between client and referral doesn’t make itself immediately available.  But, remember to keep that person in mind.  They’ll appreciate the favor!  If the relationship of referral only goes one way, it is much like unrequited love and that love will soon fade.

Spend some time with them

If someone refers a lot of business to you, and you don’t feel that you’ve had an opportunity to return the favor, maybe you don’t know that person well enough.  Take the time to take them out to coffee and find out more about them.  Ask them how you can help their business.

Have a vendor and client appreciation event

This takes a little more financial investment (not the least costly of the “inexpensive ideas” of this week)… but for a few hundred dollars you can put together some bites and sips to say thank you to those that appreciate your business.  An open house at your office can be a great opportunity to thank vendors and clients who have referred business to you and it can be a great opportunity to share with them a little more about your business.  And, if you’re like me, wine and cheese is an easy way to my heart!

How do YOU show the love?

I’d love to know how YOU foster your relationships with other wedding vendors and clients.  How do you show appreciation for referred business?  (Post a comment below!)

July 14, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Networking (and other Inexpensive Ways to Increase your Sales)

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In 2009, businesses have to work smarter and harder to achieve revenue.  People are still getting married, but they are spending less on their wedding.  So, what this means for us wedding professionals is that we have to book more jobs than in previous years.  (Oh boy!  How do I do this?)  What I see happening is that small business owners have more time and less money these days – not the most favorable of things.

“I’ve got more time, but less money these days.”
So, how do we turn this into an opportunity?

This week, I am going to focus on 4 things you can do to promote your business that are inexpensive and sometimes free.  They usually require an investment of your time.  This isn’t new information to many of you, but I’m hoping to give you a new spin on these tried-n-true tips.  Today’s tip is to: Maximize your Networking

Call another wedding professional and have a cup of coffee

A few years ago, after tracking my sales results, I determined that a growing percentage of my sales were coming from vendor referrals.  In setting my forecast for the upcoming year, I wanted to increase that number.  I knew that simply increasing that number in theory was great, but that I needed to have a plan to actually achieve results.  I committed myself to meeting with one person in my industry every two weeks.  And, so began my mmm… paper Seattle vendor tour.  And, I met some GREAT people!

What I started to see was that not only did people learn about my business, but more importantly I learned about their business.  I learned what THEIR client was all about.  I went in thinking that I would sell them on my business, but learned that it was more about finding a match in our clientele and finding a connection between their business and my business.  I was further able to define my niche and I was further able to provide them value for their business.  And, this in turn led to quality client referrals.

So, call someone up and ask them to meet up for a cup of coffee.  Learn about them, learn about their business.  Ask how you can help them. By sincerely extending yourself to them, they will naturally extend themselves to you.

Organize a casual mixer

When I moved to Seattle, I met with a wedding planner who I fell in love with.  She and I became close friends.  For months, we talked about putting together a gathering of wedding professionals.  Months turned into years.  I finally got my act together and started hosting Tuesday Toast.  Tuesday Toast is a very casual and informal cocktail hour that takes place monthly – on a Tuesday.  Barbie Hull has joined forces with me on this and helped take it to great lengths.  It’s so fun to get together with wedding folk every month to talk shop and toast the industry.  I meet new people and catch up with old friends.  And, it’s EASY to do.  Set up an evite and mail it off to your wedding peeps, start a facebook group, or a meetup group.

Expand your network

It’s easy to get comfortable.  I go to networking things and end up talking to all my favorite people that I know so well.  The problem with that can be that I’m not reaching out and meeting anyone new.  This can happen at wedding industry events (such as Tuesday Toast) or even on a more general level… not branching out beyond the wedding industry.

So, reach out to someone outside of the wedding industry.  Reach out to someone who does something completely different than you.  I myself don’t do graphic design in my wedding invitation business, so I love to have great designers to whom I can refer. If you are a photographer, why not reach out to someone who solely does baby portraits?  If you are a florist, why not reach out to the flower shop down the street that doesn’t do weddings?  If you are wedding planner, why not reach out to a corporate event planner?  These are great partners to have as they can refer business to someone who is an expert in something different that what they do.

Think outside the box

You’ve heard it all before… network, network, network.  This is nothing new.  But, rethink the way you network.  Rethink your strategy.  Rethink the way you are meeting people who can send business your way.  Take the time that you have now to invest in relationships.  These relationships are worth their weight in gold!

July 13, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

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